A Southwest Airlines jet was forced to turn back and make an emergency landing at LAX after a male passenger allegedly began choking a woman because she reclined her seat, witnesses said.Flight 2010, bound for San Francisco, turned around late Sunday night about 30 minutes into the journey because of a “rapidly escalating situation involving passengers who were not traveling together,” the airline said in a statement.“Flight 2010, declaring an emergency,” the pilot says in audio from the flight. “Evidently we’ve got two passengers that are in a physical altercation.”Witnesses reported the woman said a man sitting behind her tried to strangle her because she put her seat back, NBC News said.The unidentified man was detained by Los Angeles Airport Police, but no arrests have been made, Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told INSIDE EDITION.The remaining passengers boarded another flight and arrived in San Francisco five hours late.The International Air Transport Association says it costs an airline about $200,000 every time a flight is diverted.Read: Passengers that make your flight hell, who’s the most hated?Read: Unruly passengere taped up!
Dissident MLAs gathered at a state bhavan in Delhi: The mice that roaredThey descended on New Delhi with the dark monsoon clouds. Armed with wordy petitions and soulful complaints, all directed against the state Congress(I) leadership, the invaders from the Indian states were around for a whole week, scouting for,Dissident MLAs gathered at a state bhavan in Delhi: The mice that roaredThey descended on New Delhi with the dark monsoon clouds. Armed withwordy petitions and soulful complaints, all directed against the stateCongress(I) leadership, the invaders from the Indian states were aroundfor a whole week, scouting for contacts that would find them an audience with Mrs Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, in that order. They packed themselvesinto the state government bhavans and residential quarters of friendlyMPs. Striking an utterly discordant note in the party’s moment ofvictory in the presidential election, the dissident MLAs – 250 of themat one time – were suddenly gripped by a mood of unfamiliar defiance, as though some strange biological clock ticking in their system had toldthem that the time of change had arrived.Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab,Madhya Pradesh – the states were different though the target of thecomplaints hardly varied. To satisfy the horde of in-house rebels wouldhave meant for Mrs Gandhi to drop seven of the country’s 17 Congress(I)chief ministers.Apart from the fact that such a request was quiteimpossible to carry out, the party high command was too embarrassed toeven admit of the existence of heart-burning and grievances on suchlarge scale.Said Vasantdada Patil, the tactful general secretary of the All India Congress Committee-I (AICC-I): “It’s not true that all thesevisiting MLAs from the states are milling around in the capital only to see their chief ministers out of office. Many of them, have come toshare the party’s sense of triumph at the presidential election.”advertisementDetermination: Patil’s pronouncement could hardly have been greetedwith cheers by the determined lot of MLAs, many of whom had broughtwith them reams of “evidence” against the alleged corruption of theirchief ministers, and were holding group meetings at various places tochalk out strategy. Nor could they be shooed away by the party highcommand. As an aide of T. Anjiah, the deposed Andhra Pradesh chiefminister who had been camping for a week in New Delhi, said: “If theprime minister listens to us, we don’t go to the press. If she doesn’tlisten, we go to the press.”Particularly intractable was the Gujarat contingent, 24 MLAs in all, who, aided by 13 dissident Congress(I) MPs from the state, unleashed a bitter campaign against Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki. Later on the MPs, led by Narsimh Makwana, a member of the Harijan community, wentin a deputation to the prime minister. When Mrs Gandhi refused to meetthem, they left a memorandum on the desk of her special assistant, R.K.Dhawan, which urged her to send Solanki packing immediately.(From top left) Madhavsinh Solanki, B. Venkatram, Shiv Charan Mathur, Arjun Singh, Gundu Rao and Babasaheb Bhosale: Shooting galleryA defiantMakwana told India Today: “Barring a couple of efficient and honest men, the council of ministers led by Solanki is useless. The chief ministeris sheltering corruption and inefficiency. If the high command does notthrow him out we will have to find an alternative ourselves.”Hard Bargaining: Lurking in the background to lend countenance toMakwana’s angry antics was Mahipatrai Mehta, the wily acting presidentof the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee(I) whose recent appointmentcame as a morale booster for the anti-Solanki faction. Mehta, also anMP, toured the length and breadth of Gujarat during the last couple ofmonths, spouting venom against Solanki at party meetings. His naturalallies are Yogendra Makwana and Maganbhai Barot, who were demoted andousted in the last round of reshuffles in the Union council ofministers.Nearly 20 MLA’s had come from Andhra Pradesh, mostly with Anjiah, and were openly bargaining for their support to Chief Minister B.Venkatram, beleaguered by hostility within four months of hisappointment. Anjiah had a ten-minute audience with Mrs Gandhi, but thatdid not satisfy him. Back in Hyderabad, his men pursued with renewedvigour their alliance with the Telugu Desam Party of matinee-idol N.T.Rama Rao, the single largest menace for the Congress(I), now poised forthe assembly elections due early next year.In Rajasthan, where peace was expected to return with the appointment as chief minister of Shiv Charan Mathur, non-controversial till then, a new sandstorm began brewing last fortnight. Narendra Singh Bhati, whohad earlier led the crusade against former chief minister JagannathPahadia, was back in the ring, this time against Mathur.About a dozenRajasthan MLAs, now supporting Bhatti, claim that Mathur has failed totone up the administration. They registered a token victory when theparty high command last fortnight ousted Ram Narain Chaudhari, president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee(I) and a former friend ofPahadia who had lately switched allegiance to Mathur, and replaced himwith Nawal Kishore Sharma, a perfect fence sitter.advertisementThe party high command had allowed such minor concessions todissidents recently in other states too, namely in Madhya Pradesh. Lastyear, when the state’s heavyweight politician, Vidya Charan Shukla, wasneedling Chief Minister Arjun Singh, the high command warned him by wayof suspending his battering ram, and Madhya Pradesh CongressCommittee(I) general secretary, Lakshmi Narayan Injuria, from the party. Now, after a year, the high command suddenly withdrew the suspensionorder on Induria, thus opening up a Pandora’s box of dissidence. DuringJuly the ACC(I) office received 20-odd representations from MadhyaPradesh Congress(I) MLA’s against Singh.However, some MLA’s from Karnataka, as also a group of half-a-dozenMP’s from the state, were forcefully campaigning for the ouster ofweighty Chief Minister R. Gundu Rao, as insurance against the danger ofmass desertion from the party. They were obviously playing on the exitof S. Bangarappa, former party leader and Gundu Rao’s anathema, thoughthe mastermind behind them was K.T. Rathod, the Karnataka PradeshCongress Committee(I) chief thrown out of office two months earlier onRao’s advice. Like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka too goes to the polls early next year, with the state Congress(I) organisation racked with internal dissension.Mandate-less Leaders: In Maharashtra, the country’s most industrially advanced state, dissidence in the ruling Congress(I) has irreparablydamaged the authority of the state Government, an offshoot of which isthe costly six-month-long strike in Bombay’s textile mills which cannotbe negotiated to an end partly because the state leaders lack themandate. Last fortnight, Balasaheb Pawar, MP and vice-president of theMaharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee(I), emerged as the latestchampion of the dissidents’ cause.Pawar, who had never been overtlyinvolved with the controversial former chief minister, A.R. Antulay,exploited this fact to his advantage. He hosted a dinner at Bombay’sCricket Club of India where 128 of the 238 MLAs were present. At thedinner, he vituperated against Babasaheb Bhosale, the chief minister,seeking his removal, and was lustily cheered by the audience.Pawar later argued that the 40 MLAs who had joined the party withY.B. Chavan were “neutral” and as such would support any move todislodge Bhosale that had not originated from the Antulay camp. He toldIndia Today: “Removal of Bhosale does not imply the reinstallation ofAntulay. We want to rid the state of Bhosale’s incompetent leadershipbut we don’t want Antulay back by any means.”Mrs Gandhi left for the United States last fortnight without makingany overtures to solve these nagging internal problems of her party.When she comes back, she has to pick up the thread setting to order theorganisation in at least the two states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradeshwhere polls are due soon.advertisementBut her options are limited in both thestates; Karnataka has practically no second line of leadership afterGundu Rao, whereas in Andhra Pradesh the Congress(I) has been unable tofind a competent administrator after Chenna Reddy, who was removed fromthe chief ministership in 1980.Deep Fissures: In Maharashtra, the high command can disturb Bhosaleonly at the risk of playing into Antulay’s hands. In Madhya Pradesh, any attempt to remove Arjun Singh, who is a Thakur, will have far-reachingrepercussions. Combined with the impact of Uttar Pradesh chief ministerV.P. Singh’s resignation , it will further alienate theThakurs, who are wary of the latest developments in the Congress(I).With her eyes riveted to the 1985 general elections, these are gamblesthat Mrs Gandhi can ill afford now.Vasantdada Patil sought to paper over the fissures in the Congress(I) edifice by arguing that “dissidence is a part of the party’s democratic structure”. But he too admitted that many of his partymen had recentlybeen “emboldened” to press for the chief ministers removal, becauseafter having witnessed the “wooing back of dissidents in some states”they discovered the advantages of being rebels.Patil obviously meantHaryana, and was rightly hinting at the general mood in the party thatstridency paid where capitulation failed. In the months to come, moreand more mice in Mrs Gandhi’s party are sure to roar.GOVERNMENT: JUNKETING MANIAThe tacit campaign: “Join the Government and become an official globe-trotter,” was being hastily revised early this month as the prime minister clamped down on the popular official sport of junketing. Mrs Gandhi’s decision to cut down on junketing followed reports that the Union Government was spending over Rs 10 crore annually on foreign visits.Early last month, she called a meeting of all secretaries and ministers and conveyed her disapproval of the growing tendency on the part of senior functionaries to take off at the slightest excuse. Last month, she cancelled the trip of a 12-member team headed by a former army official which was leaving for the US and other countries to “inspect electronics research laboratories”.In another case, she directed the secretary of an important ministry to prune the delegation from 20 to only six. A proposal from the Agriculture Ministry to send a team for field study in the US and Canada at a cost of over Rs 5 lakh was also turned down by the prime minister. Her recent orders instruct minimisation of foreign tour expenses, and her prior approval if they involve officials above the rank of a joint secretary.That the bureaucracy felt rather guilty about what has become an accepted perk of office, was evident in the pained 18-month silence that followed a routine parliamentary query in late 1980 demanding a statement of expenditure on official foreign visits. Last fortnight however, in the presence of august parliamentarians, the cat reluctantly emerged from the bag.Sterile statistics informed the representatives of the people that 1,875 officials and 30 ministers had covered almost the entire world in the first 10 months of 1980. And the total expenditure incurred on these ostensibly official visits was Rs 4.18 crore – an average of Rs 22,000 per person.Astronomical Costs: Of the Rs 4.18 crore expenditure, officials spent Rs 3.63 crore, while Rs 13.96 lakh were incurred on 30 ministers. The figure does not include the prime minister’s plane charter which cost an additional Rs 40.51 lakh. Interestingly, officials belonging to the six departments looked after by the prime minister herself accounted for over half the total expenses.Seven hundred and seventy-four officials of the departments of space, defence, atomic energy, science and technology, and the cabinet secretariat who went abroad with or without the prime minister spent over Rs 2.13 crore.Even among the prime minister’s departments, over 300 senior officials from the space and energy departments squandered away over Rs 60 lakh in 10 months which means Rs 20,000 a day. According to the prime minister’s secretary, each official over the level of deputy secretary and above has gone abroad twice in one year alone.Next on the list is the Defence Ministry, 40 of whose officials on average left the country every month, followed closely by officials from the Communications Ministry including Posts and Telegraphs Department. The presence of an unusually large number of defence officials was presumably due to large-scale defence purchases during 1981.While there is hardly a ministry or department which has not sent its officials on foreign jaunts, the all too frequent coming-and-going has evinced some acerbic comment. Quipped a senior Foreign Ministry official: “Most of these visits are undertaken for the sake of it. We have experts in each field posted in our missions abroad and they are competent enough to handle any job – be it defence, communication, science, commerce and of course external relations.”To illustrate this the number of visits made by Foreign Ministry personnel were far less as compared to their counterparts in other ministries like Education, Culture, Social Welfare, Communications, and Food and Agriculture. Even the Home Ministry, having a hard enough time managing home affairs, dispatched 58 officials to countries like the US, UK, East European countries, and South-East Asia.According to the rules, each official who goes abroad is expected to submit a report about his visit which is then followed by the ministries concerned. But, according to Foreign Ministry sources, a majority of the delegations hardly submit a detailed report which can be used for improving external relations.Most of these trips continue to be justified by various ministries on ambiguous grounds like “strengthening commercial relations, participation in international symposia and conferences, to initiate talks for bilateral trade, cultural and economic relations and to promote tourism”.All this only goes to show that the current restraint is well founded. Nevertheless, the proof of the pudding distinctly remains in the eating. Since the Prime Minister’s Secretariat leads the field with an impressive track record in the field of official junketing it may provide an excuse to other to flout her directive – in ‘public interest’. – Prabhu Chawla